UTEP Nips Tulsa in Thriller, 48-47
Oct. 6, 2007
Trevor Vittatoe set a UTEP freshman record for passing yardage, and the Miners overcame a fourth quarter deficit to win for the second week in a row with a 48-47 triumph over Tulsa on Saturday in the Sun Bowl.
Vittatoe completed 21 of 27 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns, including a 14-yard strike to Joe West with 58 seconds remaining for the winning score. Tulsa drove to the Miner 36-yard line in the final seconds, but Jarod Tracy's 53-yard field goal was wide left as time expired.
For the second time in three years, UTEP and Tulsa staged a thriller in the Sun Bowl. The Miners nipped the Golden Hurricane 41-38 in 2005.
UTEP moved into sole possession of first place in Conference USA's Western Division with the victory. The Miners are now 2-0 in league play and 4-2 overall and riding a three-game winning streak. Tulsa dropped to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in C-USA action.
"I don't know if it's the shot heard around the world, but it's important, and it wasn't a fluke," UTEP coach Mike Price said. "We battled. It's good for teams to fight through adversity. We played really hard."
The Miners battled back from a pair of nine-point deficits to win, a week after overcoming a three-touchdown hole at SMU. UTEP trailed 30-21 early in the third quarter and 37-28 early in the fourth quarter.
"I think the win over SMU really helped us," Price said. "It gave our players a lot of confidence."
Marcus Thomas' 38-yard rushing touchdown - his third score of the game - pulled UTEP to within 37-35 with 12:33 to go in the game. Lorne Sam's 22-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Moturi with 8:30 remaining gave the Miners the lead, 41-37. But Vittatoe's two-point conversion attempt was picked off by the Golden Hurricane's Nick Henderson, who returned the ball for a two-point defensive PAT.
Quarterback Paul Smith gave Tulsa a 47-41 lead off a one-yard touchdown run with 4:34 to go in the game before the Miners marched 76 yards on 11 plays for the winning score.
Smith finished 26-of-43 passing for 383 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Two Tulsa players had 100-yard receiving games - Brennan Marion (136 yards) and Trae Johnson (127 yards).
Thomas ran 27 times for 134 yards, and Moturi had a career-high 174 yards on seven catches for the Miners.
Vittatoe has thrown for 10 touchdowns this season, second-most by a freshman in school history.
"He's so composed during the game it's amazing," Price said. "He throws a nice ball and he's only going to get better." UTEP took its largest lead of the game, 21-10, on an 11-yard run by Thomas early in the second quarter. But the Golden Hurricane answered with three consecutive touchdowns to forge a 30-21 advantage.
The Miners had 570 yards of offense, including 219 rushing.
"It's so good to be able to run the football and not be so one-dimensional," Price said.
UTEP will host East Carolina on Oct. 13 at 7:05 p.m. MST in the Miners' Homecoming game. The Pirates beat UCF, 52-38, on Saturday in Greenville.
UTEP vs. Tulsa Post-Game Notes
UTEP moved to 16-5 under head coach Mike Price in the Sun Bowl, including 3-0 in 2007 ... the Miners improved to 21-5 under Mike Price when scoring 30 or more points ... UTEP has rallied from two-score deficits in consecutive games for the first time in school history ... the 95 combined points are the third-highest total in a win ... the Miners finished with 570 yards of total offense, which is the best in the Price era and the most since 2003 ... UTEP topped the 500-yard barrier for the second straight game, marking the first time since 1988 that it has done so ... the Miners eclipsed the 40-point barrier for the third straight game and the initial occasion since the 2000 campaign ... Marcus Thomas rushed for three touchdowns for the second successive game, becoming the first player in school history to compile back-to-back games with three or more rushing touchdowns ... Thomas has rushed for multiple touchdowns in three straight games and four of the past five ... he finished with 134 yards on 27 carries, marking his third consecutive 100-yard game .. that effort is one shy of the school record, which is held by Thomas ... he now has 11 rushing TDs this year, which is already tied for the fourth-best single-season total in school history ... Trevor Vittatoe connected on 21-of-27 passes for 319 yards and three TDs .. the 319 passing yards are the most by a freshman QB in school history while the three TDs equal the second-highest total ... the previous record was 288 yards by John Rayborn at Air Force in 1995 ... the effort by Vittatoe extends his school-record streak for freshman signal callers to register at least 195 yards through the air in five straight games ... Vittatoe has thrown for 10 touchdowns on the year, the second-highest single-season total by a freshman QB in school history ... Lorne Sam's 29-yard TD reception was the first TD reception of the senior's career ... Jeff Moturi reeled in a 78-yard TD pass from Vittatoe in the third quarter, marking his fifth consecutive game with a TD reception ... it was the longest play from scrimmage on the year for UTEP ... Moturi finished with a career-high seven catches for a career-best 174 yards ... it marked his second 100-yard receiving game of the season ... Quintin Demps' interception in the third quarter was the 15th of his career ... that figure is the most among active players in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) ... Demps is now third in school history, trailing Charlie West (19) and D.J. Walker (16) ... UTEP scored on its opening drive of the game for the third straight home game ... UTEP went four-of-four in the red zone, which improves the Miners to 17-of-17 in their past four games ... the Miners picked up two fourth-down conversions, equaling their season total entering the game.